A festival-goer who killed three friends in a horrific crash after necking up to three ecstasy tablets and falling asleep at the wheel was jailed for four years today.

Theresa Clarke, 28, of Nevill Road, Uckfield, was driving home from the V Festival in Staffordshire last year in a Vauxhall Zafira people carrier when she veered off the M25.

Passengers Andrew Lucas, 21, and Joanna Walker, 18, were hurled from the car and died from multiple injuries.

Paul Smith, 26, was sitting in the passenger seat and was killed instantly when the Zafira crashed through a wooden fence, forcing panels of wood through the windows.

Clarke was left fighting for her life and had to be cut free from the car along with the surviving passengers, Rob Merchant, 22, and Jenny Oliver, also in her early 20s.

Snaresbrook Crown Court heard Clarke admitted she had fallen asleep at the wheel and later confessed to taking half an ecstasy tablet during the pop festival.

But toxicology tests revealed she had probably popped up to three pills during the day or taken a tablet shortly before leaving to drive home.

Clarke admitted three counts of causing death by dangerous driving.

Robert Ellison, prosecuting, said all five friends had spent the day at the V Festival on August 20 last year and had hired the car, with Clarke agreeing to do the driving.

He said: "Both Jenny Oliver and Rob Merchant said that they had taken ecstacy during the day and alcohol had also been consumed by the passengers but certainly not to any great extent by the defendant.

"She was later to admit that she had also taken ecstasy during the day."

The five left the festival between 11pm and midnight and Clarke made two stops on the way south before hitting the M25 in the early hours of August 21, the court heard.

Mr Ellison went on: "At about 3am whilst driving on the M25 the defendant fell asleep at the wheel. It seems likely that all the occupants of the car were asleep or nearly so at the time."

The road bore to the right between junctions 28 and 29 of the motorway near Brentwood, Essex, but the Zafira kept on going straight, veering across the inside lane and forcing a lorry to slam on the brakes before leaving the road.

The Zafira, which was travelling at more than 80mph according to one witness, came to a halt about 120 metres from the road after hitting the fence and turning over.

Paramedics found the bodies of Mr Lucas and Miss Walker lying in the road nearby after they were thrown clear.

Mr Ellison said: "The result of the crash has been described by those attending the scene as horrific.

"The car had crashed through a wooden fence and tumbled several times, coming to rest on its side.

"Parts of the wooden fence had entered the vehicle. They caused severe injuries to the defendant herself but also fatal injuries to Paul Smith who had been sitting next to her in the front passenger seat.

"All the deceased died at the time or very shortly after the crash.

"Miss Clarke admitted to both the surviving passengers that she had fallen asleep at the wheel."

Clarke 'nearly died' at the scene and had to be resuscitated three times and nearly lost both her legs after a wooden stake entered her stomach. She also lost a finger in the crash as the car careered through the wooden fence barrier before rolling and coming a stop on its roof.

Mr Ellison said: "She had a stake through her pelvis, which went through her womb and out her buttock.

"Her pelvis is out of kilter and she has difficulties with her back. She almost lost both her legs and she doesn't know if she can conceive."

She agreed to a blood test but was less than truthful about the amount of drugs she had taken.

Mr Ellison said: "She admitted that she had taken ecstacy during the day but said that she had taken half a tablet.

"The analysis of her blood revealed a relatively high level of the drug consistent with her taking three tablets during the day or taking a tablet shortly before leaving the festival."

The court heard that ecstacy can cause drowsiness, lack of co-ordination and giddiness after the initial high wears off after about four hours and the drug is 'incompatible with driving a motor vehicle'.

Clarke admitted three counts of causing death by dangerous driving.

The court was told Clarke had 'very little sleep' over the previous two days and had asked her friends to talk to her to keep her awake on the journey.

Two of the friends killed in the M25 crash were cuddled up asleep in the back of a car on the way from a music festival.

Mr Lucas, 21, from Maidstone, Kent, and Mr Walker, 18, from nearby Staplehurst, were thrown from the car and killed instantly.

Front seat passenger Mr Smith, also from Maidstone, also died at the scene, receiving multiple injuries as a result of a wooden stake spearing his body. Mr Merchant, who survived the crash, was from Maidstone.

Beverley Cherrill, defending, said Clarke had been 'contemplating taking her own life'. She said: "Nothing can represent the great sorrow and remorse she feels.

Sentencing Clarke to four years jail Judge William Kennedy said: "The consumption of class A drugs before you got behind the wheel and the fact you were in a state of tiredness and coming down from the drugs raises the level of this offence and your culpability."

Clarke, who was also banned from driving for three years, sobbed as she was led from the dock.

But Judge Kennedy said you would have to be "made of stone not to be touched by the tragedy on that day".

He told Clarke, dressed in a pink flower pattern dress: "You know that you should not have been on the road that night. You were extremely tired and that's a reason to stop.

"You asked your passengers to stay awake to keep you awake. You literally held in your hands the lives of your passengers.

"Despite your injuries, it's noted that your first thoughts were for your passengers.

'You are consumed with remorse. Your life will never be the same again."